My grandmother raised me to stay out of “grown folks bid’ness”. I never looked through her closets or under her mattress. Now, she was gone and not there to protest. No matter. I wasn’t rummaging through her things out of curiosity. I was doing it to honor her memory.
Every sliver of paper I examined brought back memories, some good, some not-so-good. I felt like George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, only I was guided through the past by documents rather than a guardian angel.
There in that apartment was the proof of life of no less than ten people, four of whom had taken her or his last breath on the premises. For most of the deceased, the papers I looked through were their only remaining connection to the corporeal world.
I found papers that elucidated observations I had made years before. The truth behind many innocuous family secrets had been exposed. Nothing was shocking; a few minor ah-has.
Time was not on our side. I had been overwhelmed upon first walking in the door, but by this time, I was all business. I had planned to take all sensitive documents to a commercial shredder the morning of Wednesday, September 21, but one look at the mass of papers left to sort made clear that this was not to be. Very well.
Clearing out the possessions of a deceased relative is tricky. None of us were professional movers and we all had an emotional attachment to my grandmother. We had spent the first two days digging in, but now we needed to figure out resolutions. Who was going to take what? What would go to charity? How much would a moving van cost? What would we do with things not claimed or donated?
Then, there were the diverse personalities of my relatives to consider. Four to six women to one or two men. Guys tend to focus on the task at hand, alpha male nonsense aside. Gals, however, get mixed up in esoteric things that guys grappling with furniture haven’t the time or inclination to decipher. Such was the case with this move.
I simply shrugged my shoulders and kept it moving when I sensed tension. I figured as long as no one was wrestling anyone else to the ground, things would work out fine.
Happily, there was plenty of laughter to overwhelm the politics. I have a gang of cousins with amazing senses of humor. I laughed plenty, but I sweated more.
Again, time was not on our side and we hadn’t come in with a plan, but things were finally taking shape. I am so grateful to my cousins. As disorganized as we had been, nothing at all would have happened without their help. Little by little, we were getting things done. Of greater importance, it was strictly a family affair.